Pastors' Forum


Communication Skills

I want to learn how to be a better communicator. I’ve been told to “preach the word” and to “have the anointing,” but what are some practical skills I can learn from seasoned communicators? How do other ministers create interest in their message, establish rapport with the audience, use illustrations, develop a powerful conclusion, etc.? I would really like to learn the skills and mechanics of being a better communicator. All tips and advice are welcome. Also, if certain books or other resources have helped you in this regard, I’d like to hear about them.


Pastor Sam Smucker – Lancaster, PA

Some things that I keep in mind when speaking:

  1. Make sure I know my subject well and am well prepared to present the message. I preach my message to myself twice before I preach it. I spend time in prayer to encourage myself in the Lord. Confidence comes to us in proportion to our preparedness.
  2. I am transparent with my life and share experiences from my life.
  3. I am not long-winded when I speak. My messages, as a pastor, are 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. I keep in mind who my audience is. As a Pastor, we must realize there are non-believers, new believers and people who have been Christians for a long time all in the same audience.
  5. I try to finish my message with a challenge to act on what was presented.
  6. I learned from watching people like John Osteen. He said, “Preach what you take for granted.” I learned that telling stories is powerful from Kenneth E. Hagin.
  7. Be authentic. Be yourself and don’t try to be someone else.

Pastor Mark Boer – Boise, ID

I don’t like it if people can’t remember on Sunday afternoon what I spoke on that morning. How in the world will I change people’s lives if this is the case? I know I can’t make everyone receive and remember everything I say (I don’t even remember all that I’ve said), but I do want to make my side of this equation right. I should give people ‘the goods’ in such a way that they don’t have to be a genius or ‘spiritual giant’ to benefit.

My thoughts on communication skills are being directed primarily toward preaching/teaching in a church service. There are contexts like a Bible study or Bible College class in which one might focus on other elements. A wise person will ask, “What am I trying to accomplish in speaking to this group of people today?” Do I want them to learn something, just enjoy themselves, or feel connected to the church and me? One noble objective, and one that I ascribe to, is to speak in such a way that a person can receive from God what He promised, act on His Word that day, or alter the way they are living their lives. Does my message give them something to act on? Does it inspire them to believe? The goal, in my opinion, is not to get as many people as possible to like the message. I shouldn’t judge my success by how many people said, “Great message, Pastor.” Although I certainly don’t mind hearing that, there is a bigger issue. What are they going to do with what I just said? How will their life be different as a result of being at church today? What will they do more? What will they do less? Did a healing take place in their body? Did they decide to not quit? It is not about how they feel about the message on Sunday but how they live it out on Monday.

If we answer this question of objective, it will help us to clear the clutter. Many sermons are not focused enough. They have too much information instead of a clear goal to move people from one position to another. One thing that can hinder our effectiveness in communication has to do with content—too many points and too many things to remember. I’ve listened to some great messages and just felt overwhelmed at the end. I didn’t know what to do. In pastoral ministry, we have the great advantage of there being “next Sunday.” I don’t have to try and say it all in one message. I can say one main thing—and milk it, illustrate it, and support it. I can give Bible illustrations, personal experiences and tell jokes about it. I can say it loud and say it quiet. I can be creative and say it in many different ways, but the main thing is that I say “it” and not say everything else. This way I can leave people with something they can remember and act on. There is certainly much more that could be said about communication skills, but I will follow my own advice and keep it simple right here.

Pastor Steve Smothermon – Albuquerque, NM

Thoughts for preaching:

  • To be an effective communicator, you have to know what you want people to understand when you are done. Every message should have a purpose with a call to action.
  • Avoid using repetitive “churchy” words. Ex: Hallelujah, Amen, Praise the Lord.  If people don’t speak “Christianese,” they will feel left out and confused.  This can also include everyday phrases like “you know,” or “here’s what I’m saying.”
  • Be practical. I believe that the best communicators are the ones who can take deep truths and break it down into bite-sized pieces that people can understand and process.
  • Watch videos of yourself preaching with the sound off. This will help you watch your mannerisms. Sometimes we can be harsh with our movements. What is your non-verbal communicating?
  • Make sure you aren’t monotone. You can have the greatest material, but if it is delivered in a way that is perceived as being boring, very few will grasp your message.
  • Always look for examples in everyday life. View life as a scavenger hunt for practical illustrations. Illustrations that are pulled from everyday situations are the ones that are really going to connect with people. For example, I don’t tell stories about eating at fancy restaurants or about shopping where most people can’t afford to shop.  I talk about Taco Bell and Wal-Mart more than any other places. I also worked at UPS for 11 years, so that gives me a unique perspective. In most places, there are six blue-collar workers for every white collar worker.
  • If you are older, keep some younger people around you. If you are younger, find some older people to spend time with. This will always help with your point of reference. The older I get, so does my point of reference. Younger people challenge me to connect with younger people in my congregation–they help to keep us relevant.
  • Be real. God made you who you are; don’t try to be someone else. Every preacher has something that will always be in their heart. We tend to find a way to slip this into every sermon. For me, it is to believe the Bible over every other source of information, every feeling, every circumstance, etc…
  • I think it is important to know what your core values are. Once you have developed them, keep them in front of your people. Find a way to slip them into every sermon you preach. We have to keep the vision in front of the people.
  • Never assume that people know what you are talking about. Always be prepared to break it down for someone who is brand new. Sometimes, the things that we esteem lightly are the very things that impact people the most.
  • Never use the pulpit to deal with specific people in your church. If we have issues, the Bible instructs us to go to that person, not blast them in front of everyone. The pulpit should be sacred; it is used to help disciple people.
  • Learn how to lead. When I started pastoring, I could preach a little and pray a little, but I didn’t know how to lead. You can be the greatest preacher, but you will never reach your potential until you learn how to lead. Find some great leaders and spend time with them.
  • Engage your crowd. Take them on the journey with you rather than show them a slideshow of where you have been.
  • Always be prepared. Do not take preparation lightly. The Bible tells us to be a workman that rightly divides the word of truth that needs not be ashamed. What causes shame? A lack of preparation. If you devote yourself to preparation for your sermons, you can stand with great confidence, knowing that God will honor your work.

Pastor Jim Overbaugh – Missoula, MT

As far as the skills and mechanics of being a great communicator, I’m not sure if I focus as much on these things as I do on other areas that I feel the Lord has led me to. I’m not saying that I’m a great communicator or not, but I always first endeavor to be securely founded in the biblical truth I perceive the Lord would have me to bring to the people as a point of reference and foundation. Secondly, I always endeavor to immerse myself and my messages in spirit-filled prayer time and always before I go to the pulpit to minister. Thirdly, I always endeavor to place myself in perspective with my need for God’s grace and ability to assist me in speaking on His behalf. I always say to the Lord, “I’m completely and utterly dependent upon you for the anointing, for direction, for utterance,” etc.

In addition to this, I try to be real and relatable to the people and I don’t endeavor to “impress” them with my supposed knowledge. The Word says that knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. I often use humor as needed because that is part of my personality, but I am also straight-forward and don’t beat around the bush. I frequently will use illustrations and life stories that fit with and reinforce the message, but these do not usually come in my preparation time but rather in the moment–which I believe is a result of having faith for utterance as stated earlier.

Finally, I don’t try to be anyone but myself and endeavor to use my testimony to help them know that if God could use me and rescue me, He can use them and rescue them as well. After this, I leave the results up to the Lord and always go back and re-listen to my messages so I can fine tune how I say things. This is not always easy as we tend to be our own worst critics. However, this is necessary, in my opinion, if we are going to improve in our ability to communicate with others.

Pastor Terry Roberts – Warrenton, MO

Being an introvert, communication didn’t come easy for me. My personality forced me to press in for the gift that was in me. The motivation for communicating comes from knowing you have something really important to say. The message of God and compassion for people motivates and stirs your passion.

Another principle is to “over prepare.” Confidence comes when you know you have studied, prayed, and even preached it to yourself a few times.

The last tip I would give is to find your groove and style. God wants his message to flow through your uniqueness. Find the place where you are being honest to yourself. Like someone said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

Pastor Jim Herring – Watauga, TX

We all like to hear a powerful and moving message–one that touches our heart and challenges us to reach new heights and greater goals. However, we have all been the unfortunate victims of a poorly planned and executed message. This can be a mind-numbing and torturous event. In order to prevent unnecessary suffering on the part of our future listeners, I submit the seven major public speaking mistakes that people make. We could call them the seven deadly sins of public speaking.

Sin Number One
Can I have a pillow?

The cardinal sin in public speaking is being boring. People are compassionate and they will forgive you for many things. They will forgive occasional grammatical problems, a temporary lapse in flow, an unrelated “rabbit trail,” and even a rare doctrinal faux pas. However, people will generally not tolerate a boring speaker–at least for long.

Sin Number Two
Could you repeat that?

The second sin on our list is having an unclear purpose. Every good speech or sermon should have a clear purpose or objective. What is the goal of your message? You may have it typed on your notes, but you will only be effective when it is written on the listener’s heart. Make sure your purpose is clear and understood.

Sin Number Three
I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony!

Did I get your attention? Good! A mosquito in that situation might feel overwhelmed with the abundance of good choices. In the same way, a message without proper structure may offer lots of good information but people will feel overwhelmed when they try to assimilate your message.

Sin Number Four
Do you suffer from TMI?

The fourth sin of public speaking is trying to deliver too much information. What happens when you are listening to a message and you feel overloaded? You become antsy. You think, “Ok, I’ve got the point already!” When someone delivers too much information it can cause audience anxiety.

Sin Number Five
Can you prove it?

The fifth sin of public speaking is a failure to properly support your purpose or point. One of the main objectives of a message or speech is persuasion. However, we must have ample support for another person to accept what we are teaching. Without strong support, your point may be powerful but it may not be accepted.

Sin Number Six
Ahh, Umm, Praise the Lord, Glory, Glory, Glory!

The sixth sin of public speaking is using too many fillers and being monotone. When it comes to public speaking, you will be judged based on what you say and how you say it. Feed your audience whole food! Remove the fillers!

Sin Number Seven
Would you come out of the stratosphere?

The last sin of public speaking is a failure to address the real needs of people. A good speaker always considers the needs of their audience. You may have brilliant information but if it does not apply to your listeners, they will not listen.


  • Don’t be boring
  • Have a clear purpose
  • Organize and structure your message
  • Don’t overload the listener
  • Adequately support your points
  • Fluctuate your voice and resist meaningless fillers
  • Focus on meeting the real needs of people

To see the full article from which these points were condensed, please click here.

Pastor Gary Hoffman – Wirtz, VA

I will throw in a couple of simple tips:

  1. I love strawberry pie, but I can’t eat the whole pie in one sitting. Don’t try to cover the entire Bible in one service. Use two or three points to drive home one idea.
  1. Be yourself and have fun. What comes passionately from your heart will be ministered to the hearers. Everything else has that “plastic” feel to it.
  1. Don’t preach other people’s material “until” it becomes your own material from the Lord.
  1. Preach the Word with boldness and authority; however, always have an “air” of humility.
  1. Don’t preach down to people. Always lift the people to a better place. People come to church to find help and hope. I personally don’t like listening to preachers who act like they never have a problem.
  1. Remember one thing: Sundays and Wednesday’s just keep coming. Don’t preach too LONG. Leave the people wanting more, rather than wishing you would shut up, lol.
  1. With that thought in mind, I too shall keep it short…goodbye.

Pastor Walker Schurz – Lusaka, Zambia

There are multiple courses in colleges and seminaries in regards to communication, so this is a very non-exhaustive list with a few points that have helped me over the years to be a more effective communicator of God’s Word.

Understand Your Audience

Who are they? What is their background? What are their felt needs? When Jesus became a man and lived among us, He spoke our language and used our stories. He spoke about dirt, seeds, fathers and sons, weddings, darkness and water. Because He understood us, His language was a bridge from His infinite knowledge to our ignorance. He got it–and He got us.

For the first twelve years of speaking, I spoke to audiences I did not know that well–I was a traveling speaker in churches, conferences, and seminars. I did my best to have some level of understanding of who I was speaking to and something about them.

As a pastor for twelve years to the same congregation, I love knowing the people in my church. I interact, listen, counsel, and year by year, I know more and more who they are. This is vital for me as I grew up in a small town in Maryland and pastor a church that is 96% African. The more they feel I know them, the better they trust and connect with me. They trust me more when they hear my understanding and empathy of who they are. I love that this forces me to be a student of others and to connect on a heart to heart level.

Understand Your Speaking Style

Many ministers in their early years imitate a style of communication that comes from someone who impacted their life significantly. Or, they imitate a style that is popular or that they admire. This may be mildly successful, but too often this lacks authenticity. An audience can usually smell a copycat and it is a big barrier to connection.

Understanding your speaking style takes time and some trial and error. It also comes from a truly integrated inner you–that you are comfortable in your own skin, own your own life story and find your self-worth from God and not your audience.

My congregation knows my weaknesses, gets my twisted humor and appreciates my deep passion for God’s Word and His ways. Be appropriately vulnerable. Use illustrations from your own winding path of following Jesus. Don’t always talk about your mountain moving faith, but also talk about when the mountain fell on you. The Bible tells the whole story of Moses, David, Paul and Peter. We can do the same thing as we speak.

Understand Your Purpose

One of my goals in communication comes from the praise that Forrest Gump gave his mother, “She always says things in a way that I can understand them.” My goal is not to impress nor entertain. It is to take things I firmly believe that God wants people to know and present them in a way that my audience will receive and believe them. “Simple and clear” is a much better compliment than “deep and mysterious.”

I find that many ministers want to impress. Others want to come up with something that is novel and on the cutting edge. We are in the pulpit to help others. While preaching involves us, it is not about us. Find satisfaction in Jesus, not in the applause of men. Find enjoyment from your family and a hobby, not in tickling the ears of your audience.

Make the message about Jesus and the audience. I know a pastor that only wears blue, grey and black so as not to distract the audience who might notice his clothing. We are to bring nourishment to our brothers and sisters, not a three ring circus of entertainment.

Understand Your Message

I find that the messages that best help others are the messages that come from a deep place of understanding and conviction in my own heart. A wise seminary professor once told his preaching students, “If it is cloudy in the pulpit, it will be dark in the congregation.” God’s Word and the subject you are dealing with must be very settled in your heart. It is better to prepare your life and heart than merely prepare a message.

My notes help me remember what God has been saying and organizing in my mind. But I need to know the material well enough that I do not need the notes.

God wired me with an interesting mind. I sometimes forget why I went to the kitchen, but remember whole sermons I heard 30 years ago. I keep listening, studying, reading and hiding God’s Word in my heart. I find that this type of investment gives the Holy Spirit an inventory of information to use when communicating to others.

Understand Your Stewardship

Everything we do in ministry is borrowed from heaven. We use borrowed material, with a borrowed anointing, preaching to borrowed people. Since the people of God were purchased with the blood of Jesus and not my blood, the people are not mine in any way. I am like a waiter delivering food from a Michelin 3-star kitchen to important guests. I endeavor to speak what I hear the Father say and do what I see Him doing. God uses my personality, but I certainly don’t want to change the heaven-set menu from what God knows will nourish His children.

If grace was given to you to minister to others, then be sober in how you use that borrowed grace. Use it to bless others. Be like a wise, master builder to shape the lives of others. Be faithful in what was given to you and more will be given. God will trust you more to help others after He sees you faithfully using what was given to you.

May we all receive the admonition given to Timothy and, “Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing” (2 Timothy 2:21), The Message.

Pastor Jim Graff – Victoria, TX

The role of a pastor is three fold. We must pray well, communicate well, and lead well. And it’s important we prioritize them in that order. If we don’t pray well, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will be lacking in our communication. If we don’t communicate well, we will have less people to lead than we are called to lead.

With that said, I found it helpful early in the pastorate to develop a continuing education program geared to all three of those areas. Regarding communication, it is easy to Google helpful books on communication.

But in addition, I would encourage you to watch webcasts weekly and to learn a little more that you apply each week. I would also encourage you to choose the webcasts based on these criteria:

1. Are they helping you find your voice?

2. Does their style help you nurture your people well and reach the unchurched of your area well?

3. Do you feel they can help you bridge the gap between your performance and potential?

You are off to a great start by going beyond pat answers that cause many to be less than their best! Enjoy the journey!

Pastor Bernie Samples – Barstow, CA

I’ve been pastoring/preaching for 34 years, and I listened to seasoned ministers when I first started and have evolved over time to what works best for me. At a conference in 1981, a well-seasoned minister said, “I stay full of the Word and feed them out of the overflow.” In 1985, at another conference, I heard this: “I never prepare a message. I prepare the servant.” I do my best to have quality time with the Lord every day. When preparing a sermon, I first fellowship with Jesus through the Word and prayer not for a sermon, but to strengthen my relationship with Him. Then when I’m satisfied and got what I need for myself, I ask Him what does He want to feed His sheep today? And I ask Him to look and see who is going to be in the service and what questions He wants to answer for them. I also ask Him to give me parables, illustrations and personal stories from my own life experiences that will help them.

While preaching/teaching, I try to keep it around 45 minutes with my wind-down starting about 30 minutes into message (total time ends up around an hour). I like to teach on one subject or theme at a time using a multitude of scriptures that all point to and emphasize that theme. While preaching I usually spot people in the congregation and say their name and use some success or testimony from their life that demonstrates the Word works for everyday Christians in the 21st century!

The main thing I conclude with is be you. Stay fresh in your walk with Jesus and it will come across in your ministry to God’s people!

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Covina, CA

This is a great question. Jesus commanded us to feed His sheep. Communication is a major part of what we do as Pastors. While we can and should delegate many responsibilities, communication cannot be delegated.

I try to include these three things every time I communicate on Sunday morning:

  1. Hope. People need hope. Where can they turn to get it? They are not going to get it from the world. They certainly aren’t going to get hope from the news media. They absolutely must receive hope from the church. I believe the local church is the hope of the world. It has been said there are no hopeless situations, only hopeless people. People will find hope when they learn the promises of God.
  1. Help. Effective communication must include practical application. As I’m preparing my message I ask myself, “What do I want them to know, and what do I want them to do?” Just teaching the Bible with no application will not work. The average person is not on a quest for deep Biblical truths. Preachers are the only ones who like that kind of thing. No, the average person is far more concerned with what to do to make their lives better. A “How To” message is far better than an “Ought To” message.
  1. Humor. God created us with a sense of humor. I have found that humor relaxes a person and causes them to be far more receptive. If I am relaxed, then they are relaxed. This is especially important with visitors and new people. I try to tell a funny story or at least laugh about something at some point in the message. The fact is that most people remember the stories more than the Scriptures we so meticulously assembled into our message.

One of the ways I prepare myself before I preach is to remind myself, “I love the people I’m talking to this morning.” Sometimes preachers go into the pulpit angry or frustrated, and it shows! Instead, we should be appreciative that somebody showed up to listen to us.

Another thing that will help our communication is to listen to great communicators. Watch how they interact with the audience. Observe their pace and cadence. How often do they work in an illustration? How do they communicate a difficult truth? How long do they preach?

I grew up in Southern California back in the days when we had driver’s education class in high school. However, no class could have ever prepared me for actually driving on our freeways. I learned that by doing it. In the same way, we learn to communicate by communicating. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If something doesn’t work, don’t get down on yourself. Learn from it instead, and over time you will develop your own unique communication style.

Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI

Great question. Better is a journey not a destination, so we all should be going after better! We have the most important message on the planet to communicate so we should make every effort to communicate it with increasing excellence.

A couple thoughts come to mind:

1. Prepare yourself more than your message. All genuine ministry is the result of overflow not overwork. Don’t underestimate the power of abiding, reading the Word, praying, and listening to the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:22
If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words, and they would have turned my people from their evil ways and deeds.

2. I’ve heard it said that your first 50 words are where people determine if they will listen to the rest of your words. Start out your talk with something engaging. I like to use a personal story that connects and leads into the message.

3. Get people to agree with you in the beginning of your message. In yesterday’s message, I started out sharing a quick story about me being stuck in the snow unable to get my car out. I had some fun with that. Then I said, “Have you ever felt stuck in life? Have you ever felt like you just can’t seem to get traction? Or worse yet, have you ever felt like, “It will always be this way”?

4. Remember that 85% of communication takes place through your body language and vocal tones. I used to write SMILE on the top of my notes as a reminder.

5. If your message doesn’t move you, it won’t move the people you are ministering to.

6. Be brief, be brilliant, and then be gone. As a rule of thumb, you want to be through before the people listening to you are through.

7. Ask yourself a few questions during your preparation:

  • How is this message going to help the people?
  • What do you want the people to do as a result of hearing this message?
  • How does this message support the vision God has given you?

8. Years ago I learned a secret to effective communication. There is a way that you can communicate that will cause people to remember the message.

Here is what I learned:

  • Create a question that sums up your talk. That sentence will either have the word CAN or SHOULD in it. For example:

– Every person can pray in such a way that gets results.

– Every person should pray in such a way that gets results.

  • If your sentence has the word CAN in it, you should follow the question with HOW? If the sentence has the word SHOULD in it, you should follow with WHY?   For example:

– Every person CAN pray in such a way that obtains results. HOW?

– Every person SHOULD pray in such a way that obtains results. WHY?

  • The answer to that question becomes the body and points of your message.

9. Use lots of stories. Jesus told stories all the time. Everyone loves a good story.

10. Know that people will be drawn to you because of your strengths, but they will connect to you because of your weaknesses. In your communication, allow people to see not just your strengths, but your challenges too.

11. Be prophetic! There needs to be an element to your communication that strongly includes, “This is what the Lord is saying.”

Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA

I believe that being an effective and powerful communicator is a moving target. There’s an old saying, “Know thy audience.” As culture shifts and changes, I believe, so does the tools, traits, and language need to evolve and adapt to be able to connect with those in the audience. If we compare the difference between effective communicators 40 or 50 years ago compared to today, it’s a complete different approach. As culture shifts, idioms and colloquialisms change, relevant matters of the news sway opinions, we need to also adjust to staying relevant in how we apply the word.

I have two types of services in our church. One appeals to the builder generation and the other is geared for the boomers, gen X and millennials. I preach the same sermon outline, but I adapt my stories, applications, and jokes to the audience that is listening. Not only do we have to take into consideration the generations we are speaking to, but also the types of people within those generations. The last thing I want to do is give a soliloquy and not deliver a message.

Most newspapers and magazines are written at the 8th grade reading level. This helped me to develop a strategy to strive to engage my entire audience. I try to observe three types of people in the audience while I am preaching. One type of persons I observe would be considered high on the intellectual side. I want to see if I am communicating in a way that connects with this individual and keeps them engaged. The second type is someone we might consider a bit more simple-minded, maybe a child or a special needs person. I want to make sure that I am not speaking over their head and try to keep them engaged. The third type is one that tends to be more emotional. I want to be sure that I am engaging them at some level too. I think this helps me to stay balanced in reaching a broader base of people and not isolating anyone in the audience.

Lastly, I think our greatest asset that tends to get overlooked is the most important. Many times communicators focus on the words of their speech, yet experts say that 95% of what we communicate is through our posture, attire, countenance, and tone of speech. This is why I think it’s important for communicators to video themselves. They need to be able to not just listen to their words, but to see how they are delivering those words. Also, I think any developing communicator would have the heart to seek out a couple of mentors that can also review the videos and give out constructive guidance to help them grow.

In closing, I think any great orator will continue to be great if they endeavor to continue to grow and develop their skills.

Pastor Brad Allen – Redwood City, CA

Great question!

We were given a sermon outline to use as students at Rhema. Whenever a sermon seemed to fail, it was because I didn’t stay close to the mechanics of the outline. My wife made many copies of it for me in my first year as a pastor.

A good sermon needs these ingredients:

  • Main point
  • Main scripture
  • Strong introduction that tells you why this topic is important
  • Attention getting story or illustration that shows why this topic relates to us today
  • 1st sub-point related to the main point
  • Supporting scripture
  • Another illustration
  • Application to our lives today
  • 2nd sub-point, etc.
  • Final illustration and application (your strongest one)
  • Call to action (altar call for salvation or rededication, healing, forgiveness, call to ministry, etc.)

As you’re working on your message, remember to stay focused on one main point. Don’t preach the whole Bible in 45 minutes. Stay focused.

Keep asking yourself, “so what?” Why is this important? Who does this help? How does this help? What should we do and why?

A good sermon is a call to action. Make every point and every illustration point to that call to action.

Good sermons are full of good illustrations and helpful applications. Bad sermons lack enough of both.

Smile and make eye contact. Don’t read your notes. You can read your Scriptures, but only glance at your notes.

Watch the clock. Don’t go long.

Humor helps a lot. An opening joke or funny story helps a lot. Notice that Joel Osteen starts every message this way. It works.

I found that it helps to pray, “God make this message easy to understand, helpful, and funny.” I used to write in jokes, but reading a joke in the middle of the message doesn’t work. Just be yourself and relax and you’ll connect.

Be passionate about your message but be sensitive to your listeners.

Praying short prayers aloud in the message works for me. Try it.

Dress well. Casual is okay, but it needs to be clean and sharp.

Don’t get too distracted before your message. Find a way to avoid distractions prior to speaking. Have someone else put out the fires and handle the emergencies the hour before you speak. The devil is good at sending you a text about a big family or church problem just before you are to speak. Turn off your phone!

Have fun. If you’re not having fun, then no one else is either.

Pastor John White – Decatur, AL

Communication is more than just talking. If people aren’t comprehending what you are saying, then all you are doing is talking.

One of the main prayers that I’ve prayed for myself as a pastor is, “Lord, help me to be a better communicator.” I don’t want to waste my time nor anyone else’s time. I know that if I can get the information I have inside of me inside of the people I minister to, I can change their life. However, often times we have things locked up inside of us that we just can’t seem to get out. That’s why it is so important to constantly work on improving our communication skills.

Here are some things, other than praying, that I have done to improve my communication skills.

  1. I listen to and watch other people that are good communicators. What are they doing to capture the attention of their listeners? Is their audience getting what they are saying? And if so, what skills do they have that I don’t? Then I try to adjust what I can.
  1. I listen to recordings and videos of myself occasionally to see and hear things that I need to change or work on.
  1. I’m from the south. My Dad had a 9th grade education and we were farmers. So needless to say, my English skills weren’t too good growing up. I realized that I needed to improve my English skills, so I went back to college and took courses that put a demand on me to speak correctly. I know you can have a great handle on the English language and still not be able to communicate, but it goes a long way in getting where you want to go. I, by no means, am an English scholar nor do I try to be. I still butcher the King’s language, and I still have a strong southern accent but I try to use it to my advantage (for instance, being humorous about my weaknesses).
  1. I bounce things off my wife and children. I ask them if they could understand what I was trying to say. Is there anything they think I might improve on?
  1. Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. When you try to mimic someone else, you will fall flat on your face. I’ve picked up traits of my mentors, but I hope I haven’t changed my personality to parrot theirs.
  1. Understand that you are a life-long communicator and that you will have to minister to people of all walks of life for the rest of your life. Don’t be intimidated, because you have the message that will change their life. What you are saying is important, and if you believe in your message and believe in yourself, others will also.

Pastor Duane Hanson – St. Paul, MN

I recall reading years ago that the focus of our communication is our audience, and the purpose of our communication is action. If we know who our audience is, and can speak to them in such a way that it will produce a response, then our efforts to communicate have had some level of success. The Apostle Paul encouraged a young Pastor with these words:

I Timothy 4:11-16 KJV
11 These things command and teach. 12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Obviously every minister should strive to become a Christlike example, but take a closer look at verse thirteen, and you’ll notice there are three specific things to do: Examine the Word; Exhort from the Word; and Explain the Word! If we can accomplish those three simple steps, we’ll help people become established in the Word.

The danger comes when we use the power of our “words” to influence people to take action that is not in their best interests. The Apostle Paul also warned the Church about making sure that our words were “seasoned” with grace, and that they would edify the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29 KVJ
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

We might think of “corrupt communication” as being speech that is crude, or vulgar in nature. However, I would also apply that to anything we might say that is unnecessary, unproductive, or takes away from those that hear us. When my wife and I attended RHEMA years ago, we had the unique opportunity to work in Healing School under Rev. Doug Jones, who was the Director at the time. We had been in full-time ministry for ten years before attending RHEMA, and had years of experience teaching and preaching. When I stood in the pulpit before that group of people assembled in Healing School, realizing that their very lives were depending on the words I spoke, it had a tremendous impact on my delivery. I realized that I needed to get right to the point, and take the “fluff” out of my messages! There were people who needed to hear from Heaven, because their life literally depended on it! I was responsible to communicate the basic truth of God’s Word that would renew their mind, bring healing to their bodies, and transform their life. I will always treasure the experience we had working in Healing School, knowing that it greatly influenced my communication skills.

Over 30 years ago when I realized the seriousness of my assignment as a Bible teacher and Shepherd, I researched the basic principles of Homiletics. I came across all kinds of helpful material, which I customized and then printed in the back of my Bible. As I’m preparing a message, I will review the following chart to remind myself how important it is to clearly communicate the Truth, and imagine what my answers would be for each of the following statements:

Every time I speak, I will give people something to Feel, something to Remember, and something to Do:

Inspiration: I want them to Feel…

Information: I want them to Remember…

Implementation: I want them to Do…

Some of us are old enough to remember President Reagan who earned the reputation as “The Great Communicator.” He was known as a great leader because of his ability to communicate a clear vision, explain the purpose behind his decisions, and engender trust to those whom he delegated his authority. As one contemporary of Reagan’s put it, “When it came to leading the country, people knew who he was, where he stood, and what he wanted, and they couldn’t wait to get on board with him. Communication made him the kind of leader that people wanted to follow.”

What kind of a leader are we, and do people want to follow us? Do people know who we are, where we stand, and what we believe? If we’ve clearly communicated the vision God has given us, and the people understand the decisions we’ve made as their leader, and we’ve developed a team that will run with that vision, then we’ve already taken steps to be successful with our communication skills.

Pastor Carl Toti – Lubbock, TX

Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action
by Ben Decker and Kelly Decker

White Communication Lies

White Lie #1: “If I say the words, people will get it.”

The most common misconception about communication is the idea that “communication is about words.” Communication is about the experience that you create.

White Lie #2: “When I’m ‘on,’ I’m great.”

Don’t think of a presentation to an audience as a performance; as a role you are playing. Think of your presentation as a conversation in which you authentically interact with your audience.

Your ability to simply be yourself when you speak may make all the difference to you, your audience, and your organization. Great communicators are authentically themselves all the time. Audiences want to see and hear the real you, so they can determine whether or not they trust you. And that means it’s time to stop “giving speeches,” and it’s time to become spontaneous, vulnerable, and human.

White Lie #3: “I don’t need to prep. I can wing it.”

Every interaction is an opportunity and worthy of great communicating, yet it’s so easy to say, “It’s not a big deal—I’ll just shoot from the hip.”

White Lie #4: “People tell me I’m pretty good at speaking.”

Your team members may be so worried about losing favor that they will offer you a shine job, sugarcoating their feedback rather than actually sharing what you need to hear. Fortunately, there is one great instrument for eliciting honest feedback: a video recording.

REMEMBER: Whenever you speak to an audience, imagine a roomful of other people exactly like you. We are all busy, with deadlines, long to-do lists, and a gazillion digital options competing for our attention. Our smartphones and social media usage have changed the way we listen. In just a few short years, we have become far less willing to simply sit in a chair listening to someone give a speech.

Inspiration—Not Just Information. People Are Craving Inspiration.

Creating A Communication Experience

Whether you like it or not, you are always creating a communication experience. You control both what your audience feels and what it remembers. Are people bored or energized? Checked out or interested? Concerned or confident? Their experience is in your hands.

Communicator's Roadmap

Communicator’s Roadmap (see graphic above)

The vertical axis graphs our emotional connection with our audience. This emotional connection is what determines whether or not people like us, trust us, and want to follow us. If there is emotional distance, which occurs when we fail to create this connection, our audience will be disinterested or disengaged. This is the result of low emotional connection. The higher we are on this axis, the more likable, engaging, warm, and trusted we are.

Consider some of the speakers you have recently heard. Did they make you laugh, wince, or feel anything? Or nothing?

So how can we make the emotional connection using communication? Two ways:

  1. By connecting through behavior: showing that we engage with others to deliver a message; the way that we show warmth, care, and interest, as well as competence.
  2. By adding emotion to our content. Our messages must have a logical flow; they must be well structured and well organized. But to create an emotional connection, we need stories, analogies, and even humor in our messages. Stories, especially those that reveal personal vulnerability, help us get to know that person and further increase that connection.

The horizontal axis represents our content, the actual message that we deliver. This is the part of the Communicator’s Roadmap that considers the words you say. Are you distributing information, or are you driving action?

The left side of the axis is reserved for information sharing. If the content is totally focused on your agenda, your ideas, and your goals, if you are constantly saying, “I, I, I,” then you’ll find yourself at the left end of the horizontal axis. This is self-centered content. The more you are able to focus your content and make it audience-centered—serving the wants, needs, desires, goals, and priorities of the audience–the more you shift the experience to the right side of the horizontal axis. The right side of this axis is action-oriented, and it is the part of the Communicator’s Roadmap from which influence flows.

The upper-left quadrant is for those who entertain. If you have a high emotional connection with your audience but your content is self-centered, then you are in the upper left-hand quadrant with the entertainers. Entertainers hold our attention and give us a couple of hours of pleasure and delight, but generally, they are not trying to inspire us or move us to action. The self-centered content of their message is designed to focus attention on them and on their performances—not on the needs and wants of their listeners. Actors, stand-up comics, talk show hosts, musicians, and other entertainers operate primarily in the upper left-hand quadrant.

The first key behavior is eye communication. When you don’t have eye communication in an in- person experience, you flat-out don’t have communication. You have effectively lost the connection that you established.

The second key behavior is posture and movement.

The third key behavior is gestures and facial expression. Gestures are an excellent tool to inject energy into the equation and add a sense of ownership and control over the experience. Yet it’s not easy to find that “sweet spot” between underuse and overuse when it comes to gestures.

The fourth key behavior is voice and vocal variety. The way your voice sounds has a lot to do with the way people experience you. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, people who hear recordings of rough, weak, strained, or breathy voices tend to label the speakers as negative, weak, passive, or tense. People with normal voices are seen as successful, sexy, sociable, and smart.

  1. Pitch: One of the most common problems involving pitch is the “uptalker.” Invisible question marks—ending sentences on a higher pitch—are a plague that has spread to our business communications. If this is you, think about ending your sentences as statements, not questions, by ending your sentences at a lower tone than you begin them.
  1. Pace: It’s not just the pitch of your voice but also the pace that people notice. Vary the pace of your voice. The sweet spot is right between too formal and too casual—it’s conversational. It should feel and sound natural, as if you’re at a backyard barbecue going through your key points.
  2. Volume: Varying the volume of your voice is the key to keeping people tuned in. If they have to lean in and listen closely to catch a key detail, you’re holding their attention. But if they can’t hear any details at all, you’ve lost them.

The fifth key behavior is pausing. The pause is one of the most powerful behavioral tools at your disposal. The pause allows you to think. You will lose your train of thought at some point. But give yourself a break. All you need are a couple of seconds to think, and you’ll be just fine.

Finally, pausing enables you to eliminate filler words. Recognize your filler word of choice, like “um” or “uh,” and then use the pause to replace it.

SHARP is an acronym for stories, humor, analogies, references, and pictures.

You don’t necessarily need to include all five of these SHARPs in every presentation, conversation, or communication, but SHARPs are essential to creating an emotional connection between you and your listeners. If you want to drive action—close the deal, secure your budget, fire up your team—you need to appeal to people’s emotions, which is exactly what SHARPs do.

Stories are emotional. They stir up feelings—suspense, sorrow, compassion, anger, joy, and hilarity. Stories are visual.

Humor entertains and keeps your listeners engaged. As long as your listeners are laughing, or even smiling, you won’t find them nodding off or reaching for their phones.

An analogy is a comparison that reveals a commonality between two dissimilar objects or ideas. Analogies use familiar examples to explain ideas and concepts that are less easily understood. They are concrete and matter of fact. Analogies help people get it.

The easiest of all the SHARPs to add is a reference or a quote. A third-party reference and/or quotation helps us frame our message, and it brings our topic to life.

Using pictures and other visuals in your message helps make your story come to life. There are many ways to connect with your audience visually: PowerPoints, video clips, props, and even physical activity, such as dance, acrobatics, juggling, or stage magic. Visuals and pictures magnify the emotional impact of your message.

Dr. Dave Williams – Lansing, MI

You have asked some great questions, which shows you are serious about communicating the Gospel effectively.

There is a way to “miracle-ize” your messages, sermons, speeches, lessons, and presentations and transport something substantial of the heavenly realm into your listener’s lives. You want to be an exceptional, persuasive speaker that causes inspiration to come to hearts, and motivation to the minds of your audience. Let me offer a few suggestions.

First, list a few speakers that have impacted your life in a significant way. Now list a few speakers that have “turned you off.” Study only those on the first list. Many preachers are sincere, godly, and love people, but they haven’t learned the importance of effective communications, so their reach is limited.

I conduct a one-day seminar entitled, “How to Turn Ordinary Talks into Heavenly Impartations.” I will capsulize it for you. First, let’s look at what people said about the Lord Jesus when He spoke:

Mark 11:18 NLT
the people were so amazed at his teaching.

Luke 4:32 NLT
the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority.

Luke 19:11 NLT
The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story

Luke 19:48 NLT
… All the people hung on every word he said.

It’s okay to make your own prayers from these verses.

What’s the difference between a good speaker and an exceptional speaker?

A good speaker can educate and perhaps bring a little application and motivation, but an exceptional speaker, prepares not just a talk, but a banquet for his or her listeners.

That banquet includes five key, fundamental qualities:

  1. Education – Academic
  2. Motivation – Emotions
  3. Inspiration – Heart and soul
  4. Application – Illustrating the principles
  5. Impartation from heaven – transport of something from the divine realm

Cardinal Rules for Preaching:

  • Be interesting
  • Provide benefits and value to the listeners
  • Illustrate points for clarity of application (stories, anecdotes, metaphors)
  • Smile and like your audience
  • Be biblically sound and keep an ear toward heaven
  • Try to always include the doctrine of Christ – weave it into every sermon and you’ll see a greater response. It only takes a minute to basically give the “Apostles Creed” in your own words. There is something miraculous about it.
  • If you speak as if you’re speaking to one person, people will receive your words more readily. When you call your listeners, “Friends,” or “Church,” you are pluralizing and people will feel you are only speaking to a group instead of to them personally as an individual. You want each person, regardless of how many are in the room, to feel like you are speaking to them alone.

Cardinal Sins of Speakers:

  • No clear point
  • No benefit to listeners
  • No organized flow
  • Too many details
  • Too long

I never felt like I had to finish a sermon just because I had more notes. I quit when the Holy Spirit was ready. It’s more difficult and takes more planning to prepare a 30 – 40 minute message than it does an open-ended, “who knows when it will end” message.

I was ministering in a smaller church a few years ago. It should have been a larger church so I wondered what the problem was. I asked the pastor when I should end my message, and I heard these words: “Just go on as long as you’d like. Our people are used to it.”

Well, some people may appreciate never knowing when they’ll be dismissed, but most people are busy, have multiple commitments, and usually won’t attend a church if they never know when they’ll get out. It’s not carnal or ungodly to expect order in a church, even though some will say you’re not spiritual if want to know when a regular church service will end.

Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.”
– Dorothy Sarnoff

Acts 20:9 NLT
As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below.

Billy Graham, in a citywide campaign in Cincinnati, spoke about 20 minutes each night.

Proverbs 17:27 NLT
A truly wise person uses few words.

Vocal tone and body language that doesn’t match the words you are speaking. People will believe tone and body language over the words you speak. For example, if you are saying, “I love God so much,” but shaking your head “no,” it sends a mixed signal and people will tend to believe the gesture more than your words, even though it may be subconsciously.

Annoying habits, like saying “Hallelujah” after every sentence. Other annoying habits to listeners: Beware of too many “filler words” like:

  • “You know”
  • “Are you listening to me?”
  • “Hear me now”
  • “Friends”
  • “Okay?”
  • “… And stuff.”
  • “Hello?”

A speaker will lose power by repeating or overusing certain adverbs and adjectives:

  • “Really, really, really …”
  • “Very, very, very …”
  • “So, so, so …”

More “Never Says”:

  • “I’m running out of time, so I must hurry along.” Rushing makes you sound anxious and will undermine your image of confidence. It will also lead to mistakes and overuse of non-words (“ah, ah, ah, ah, um”)
  • “We have to move along because we have a lot of ground to cover.”
  • “This reminds me of a story … “
  • “I’ve got a ton of information to cover with you today …”
  • “I’ll be honest with you …”
  • “Let me be very blunt about this …”
  • “I’ll be frank and honest with you …”

Preachers who impart, know they need prayer support.

No matter how great we think we are and how great the call of God is on our life, we can’t do it alone. We need to recruit intercessors. When I was pastoring, I always appointed intercessors to be praying while I preached. Even today as I travel, I take intercessors along. We are trying to do something that is not humanly possible:

  • Convict people of sin so they repent
  • Transfer people from Satan’s domain to God’s kingdom
  • Enable them to understand spiritual truths
  • Impart vision for their lives

The effectiveness of your communications determines the effectiveness of your influence.

You can miracle-ize your messages—become exceptional—zoom past your teachers and mentors and bring an impartation from heaven that will benefit not only your listeners, but YOU as well.

I’ve attached an outline for speakers that may be helpful to you. Thank you for your question, and I pray God’s very best for you!

Download outline in PDF format   |   Download outline in MS Word format

Pastor Jesse Zepeda – Pflugerville, TX

I trust God for my messages, and when they’re from the Word of God, they will be interesting. The gospel is over 2,000 years old. It’s always new and never boring.

I want the message to relate to me, and when it does, I can relate the message to the hearer. Brother Hagin used to share some of his experiences with us, and those illustrations helped me with the message he was relating to me, as a hearer.

I always ask myself, “How is this message going to change me?” When I get the answer, I can relay it to the hearer. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us believers that we are new creatures! Old things are passed away and behold all things are made new! Is that awesome or what? God makes us new. It’s simple; don’t make it difficult. Our invisible God does the impossible.

As ministers, we need to hear from God. He will give us the words of life for the people.

Pastor Scott Millis – Saint Joseph, IL

To whatever degree I have succeeded as a communicator, I must say that the most valuable thing I have learned to do is to draw on the anointing. I remember the very first time I did that, and it made all the difference in the world. BUT, since I cannot begin to describe the process or explain HOW to do that, I’ll offer a couple of concrete, practical pieces of advice that I have found valuable:

  1. Read, read, read! And not just teaching books. Read histories, biographies, commentaries, sermons, even novels. The more well-read you are, the more well-rounded you are, and this fullness will find its way into your preaching and teaching. If for no other reason, read for the illustration material. Spurgeon said, “The sermon is the house, but the illustrations are the windows that let the light in.” And while personal experiences are great illustrations, you only have one life to live, so your personal experiences are limited. Illustrate with the lives and stories of others.
  2. Listen, listen, listen! Listen to other preachers and teachers. Listen to those who may be somewhat outside your traditions. What do you notice about speakers you like to listen to? What can you emulate without plagiarizing? Like reading, listening to others can serve as a source of illustrations (but be sure to give proper attribution; I heard of a pastor years ago who would listen to Bill Hybels on the radio then use his illustrations verbatim in his Sunday sermons until a couple of congregants informed him that they regularly listened to Hybels, too!), and, like reading, listening to others can increase your vocabulary, making your sermons more colorful and easier to listen to.
  3. Seek critique! This is tough, but necessary. Every now and then, make yourself listen to a recording of your sermon as given to the congregation. Be your own critic first. Are you speaking clearly? Too many “uhs” and “ums”? Then ask someone you know will be honest to critique you. My wife is good for that. She is always encouraging and affirming, but she’ll also tell me if I’m doing something distracting, like fiddling with the buttons on my jacket. I still do that, but at least I’m conscious of it now ;) Are you making eye contact? Are you smiling? If you move around while you speak, are you favoring one section of the congregation? ARE YOU GOING TOO LONG? There are only a handful of people in this world I can listen to for much more than an hour, and I am not one of them. Find someone you can trust to tell you the truth about these things, but don’t invite mass critique from your congregation!

Pastor Aaron Fillmore – Ada, OK

There are far more experienced people than myself to answer these questions more soundly (I feel like I start every response that way), but I would like to humbly offer some answers from where I am.

Practically speaking, I believe ‘sticking to the script’ is important, but I need to qualify that a bit. I absolutely believe preparation is important and whether you preach with notes, from a manuscript, or no notes, knowing your material each week is critical. I feel it allows me to convey the message more passionately when I take what I have studied and meditate on it often until it comes from deep inside (if that makes any sense). That being said, what I mean in referencing a script is not going down trails that aren’t a part of the message. That is not to say the Holy Spirit does not and will not inspire what has not been studied or prepared, but a point can fail to be driven home if it is lost in a maze of different trails, illustrations, or even scriptures.

When it comes to preparation, there are many methods and approaches, but it mostly comes down to what works best for the individual. I have a list I use for each sermon that contains questions I ask myself:

  • Is Christ at the center?
  • Is God glorified?
  • Does this make sense?
  • Is this easy to understand?
  • What is the context (chapter, author, book, historical, literary, parable, etc.)?
  • Did I make it easy for them to remember?
  • What do I expect people to do in response (the Gospel always requires a response of some sort)?

This list certainly is not exhaustive, but it has been a helpful tool for me to use each week in preparation. I feel that if I am better prepared, I communicate more clearly and effectively, which I believe glorifies God (when I give Him my best—and praise Him for His grace when I do not).

The most important part of all preparation is prayer. I have always enjoyed this quote from Martin Luther on prayer: “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” I accomplish much more in prayer than in reading that extra commentary or Greek word study.

Knowing your audience is also of the utmost importance. Illustrations, examples, analogies or even humor can fall far short of expectations if the audience is not considered, and it can even turn people off from hearing the message that has been prepared. By this, of course I mean you have to know your flock. Knowing what people are going through—real people in real time—can help drive home the points of a particular message, particularly when it comes to application. This cannot always be accomplished, however, for itinerate ministers or conference speakers as they are not intimately acquainted with members of the congregation but certain regional, demographic, and social considerations can be taken into account for the message on a broader scale. The point of it all is to get people to ‘buy-in’ to you, so they lend you attention and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work of illumination in their hearts (though He is gracious with us and can work despite our shortcomings as ministers! Praise God for that!).

Lastly, of the many books on preaching I have read, I particularly enjoyed “Between Two Worlds” by John Stott. In his book, he explains how the role of the preacher is to build a bridge from where people are at to where they need to be (more or less, and more eloquently than I explain it). I would also like to take this opportunity to make a short plea for expository preaching. Taking a book of the Bible verse-by-verse is a fantastic way to walk people through hard texts and parts of the Bible we may not naturally gravitate towards. There are many different approaches to this and historically I have done topical sermons that work through long texts in an expository manner or by going through a book of the Bible with an overarching theme (ie, for 1 Peter—Endure: Life is Hard. God is good.) and working through the text within that framework. Recently, I have felt led to begin the Gospel of John which will take over a year to complete, working in topical sermons when feeling led to do so as a break from the series. Certain considerations should be made for specific holidays; for example, my plan of preaching for this will put us at John 3:16 for Easter Sunday.

No matter one’s approach, we should be ever mindful of the great charge set before us as ministers of the Gospel: that we will be held accountable for what we preach (James 3:1), that we should preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23), that we should preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and as Richard Baxter said, to preach “as a dying man to dying men”—leave it all on the ‘field’ each and every Sunday. Hold nothing back, give yourself wholly over to the work of the Holy Spirit, and marvel at God’s glory in using broken vessels such as ourselves to communicate the most important and powerful message in the world.

Pastor Josh Payne – Troy, PA

Be Timely
No matter how anointed we are, the human brain has a hard time absorbing any more than your behind will allow – that’s approximately 35 minutes. I try and stay within that to maximize impact and attention. You will be amazed at how powerful God can work in that window. We developed a motto early in ministry that has served us very well, “Leave them begging, not bored!”

Line Upon Line
Writing a sermon is like building a house. There should be an order and a sequence. Each line should build upon the last line. I try to write in a way that each line stands on its own and at the same time leads directly into the next line. This weaves the entire message together and no one leaves wondering what you were trying to say.

Know Where You Are Taking Them
When you take a road trip, it is ultimately the destination you desire that determines the path you must take. So when writing a message, it helps to decide where God wants us to go by the end of the message. As a shepherd we are called to lead God’s people into greener pastures.

Don’t Waste Their Time
Nothing is more valuable than time. They are sharing a piece of their life with us, and this is an honor and privilege they have given us. Make sure that what you provide gives them enough substance that they can’t keep from coming back. At Victory, people who hated going to church become people who count down the days until they get to come back.

Be Real
Tell them how what you are preaching on has impacted your life. That creates transparency. Jesus walked with His disciples. Remember the platform you stand on is only elevated for the congregation’s line of sight. We want to eliminate the idea that we are preaching down to people. When I preach I don’t want to talk at them, I want to talk with them. Instead, I want the messages to feel more like a conversation. I encourage crowd response. A LOT! We laugh together, cry together, shout together, and clap together as we celebrate God’s Word together. We may be anointed to preach it but that doesn’t make us anointed to live it. We walk out our lives before Christ just like every other disciple.

Don’t Just Tell Them What, Tell Them How
I’m a directions guy. If you give me a step by step plan, I can do about anything. Our messages should be the same. It’s not enough to just tell people what the Bible says; we must show them step by step how they can live it. We give them personal application. I call them “Handles.” We want to put handles on the messages so they can carry it with them not just for this week but for life.

Nothing can replace the power of passion in our preaching. Your delivery in preaching may not always be perfect, but people will follow passion. We set the tone from the platform. We don’t read the people to decide what kind of service it will be. When Jesus died at Calvary, He gave it all. Every time I mount that sacred desk I refuse to give Him anything less.

Be Bullet-Proof
Doctrinal accuracy is everything. This is the foundation of all you do. This is where you build trust. I do not want them to build a life on my words. I want them to build their lives on His Word. I tell Victory constantly, “Don’t take me at my word. I’m a man and I can miss it. Line up everything I say with this Book.” I pray before every service, “Lord let the words that I speak today be Spirit and life because they are Your words”.

If You Want To Preach Like a Champion, You Must Prepare Like One
The separation is in the preparation. That simple. When we prepare, it shows. Writing drains me but preaching fuels me. I love to preach but I hate to write. But the reality is no one gets to experience the joy of having a baby without going through the pain of labor and delivery. You are giving birth to what God wants to do in that place, in those people, and in your city or region every time you close yourself off from the world so you can hear from God.

Don’t Put Too Much Pressure On Yourself
I want to have a voice in our generation and not just be another echo. However, it’s important that you understand you cannot create and innovate twice a week, every week, without taking breaks regularly so you can accomplish other things and invest in other areas of the ministry. So I find other preachers whose messages and ministry resonate with my spirit. I prayerfully take one of their messages and tweak it to fit me so I’m not Milli Vanilli. Then, I add my own thoughts and life experience with it so I’m not trying to wear Saul’s armor. It took me a long time to get to the place where I was ok with this. I felt somehow that unless I wrote everything, I was failing God. I wasn’t being realistic.

Preach With Pin-Point Accuracy
Although not all preaching is prophesy, I am of the conviction that there should be an element of prophesy in all spirit-filled preaching. The effects of prophesy go beyond the testimony of Jesus. It goes beyond edification, exhortation, and comfort to all who hear. The effect of prophesy in a corporate setting goes to 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 which says, But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.” This is the only way that hundreds of people, from totally different walks of life, facing completely different challenges, can come together in one room, hear one message, and every single one can leave feeling like it was tailor-made just for them. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak through you, enabling you to prophesy and speak supernaturally with pin-point accuracy into the specifics of people’s lives. Ask Him to use you to answer the questions they are asking. No one knows what they need to hear better than He does.

Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO

I started preaching in churches as a teenager back in the 70’s. That’s over 35 years of preaching. My preaching style was very consistent during those first 20-25 years. Around 10-12 years ago, I sensed a need to change my preaching style in order to be more effective with my current audience. Church attenders have changed drastically in the last few years. It is definitely not the 90’s anymore.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Shorter preaching is better than longer (30 minutes is a good target).
  • Shorter preaching will expand your audience (more people will stay engaged).
  • People will return to hear more next week if you don’t wear them out this week.
  • There are a least three different types of people I need to address every Sunday: seasoned saints, novices, and seekers (Don’t freak out on this term; they made it to the service and are seeking change in their life).
  • We design our services more to the novice and seekers because we exist to connect people with God. Seasoned saints know how to feed themselves. Only babies must be fed by others. Seasoned saints will take the sermon outline (printed in the weekly planner) and study on their own during the week.
  • Don’t be afraid to preach for repentance and change. People don’t always need validation; they also need and desire to be challenged.
  • I ask myself in every message, “What ONE thing do I want them to know and remember today?”
  • Give the “so what” in every message. Every message must have a call to action. “So what do you want me to do?” Remember the ONE thing rule!
  • Use video and photographs. The brain registers pictures 60 times faster than text.
  • Every sermon must be illustrated with stories, personal testimonies, appropriate videos or photographs. The website is a good resource. I am sure there are other good websites. Most mega-churches have video illustrations and graphics that can be purchased.
  • We record personal testimonies on video so they can be edited for time and appropriate content.
  • If I hear a message that impacts me greatly, I will preach my own version of that message to my congregation. I give credit to the original source with a very quick mention in my sermon. Most of your congregation is glad that you listen to a few other preachers from time-to-time.
  • I read voraciously. It takes a great deal of information intake to give a little back out. Preach from the overflow, not from the left-overs.
  • Sunday is the first day of the week for me. My office week is Sunday through Thursday. While I am “off” on Friday and Saturday, I read through my sermon multiple times. I don’t like cramming for sermons on Saturday night! I Iike tweaking my notes on the weekend. Usually, I find unhelpful material to cut, and rarely thoughts to add.

I found that Andy Stanley’s book Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication confirmed some of my own conclusions and has useful information.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA

Okay, how do we answer this question in a manner that makes some sense? I’m certain that EVERYBODY’S response will be as different as our experiences, which is, in my opinion, a great clue to effective communication.

It is my belief that it is “nearly impossible” to effectively share information that you haven’t experienced personally – and nearly impossible NOT TO EFFECTIVELY SHARE that which you have! Information that comes from transformation is EASY TO TALK ABOUT.

What you find EASY or EXCITING will convey anointing, almost on its own. Never attempt to teach lessons you haven’t “learned” yourself and you’ll already be moving towards greater effectiveness.

I’ve also learned that there is GREAT ANOINTING on our TRUE IDENTITY—very little (if any) on our projected image. Communicating from your TRUE YOU is VITAL! You can’t be somebody you’re not—you can’t even TALK like ’em, walk like ‘em, etc. BE YOU!

Lastly, I’d like to suggest that you consider focusing your material to ONE SINGLE THOUGHT. You can make 3 or 4 or 7 points, but all working together to convey the ONE THOUGHT from differing perspectives.

Be real, be true, and be simple. That’s how I attempt communications!

Pastor Jimmy Patillo – Frankfurt, KY

Be Yourself

You’re a great original but a lousy copy. Just relax and be you. There is a place for you. It’s a big ole’ world. Be the best YOU that you can be! You’re not going to be everybody’s reward. Everybody is not going to like you or think you’re cute. However, I assure you, you WILL be somebody’s reward!

Know Your Audience

Are they new believers or seasoned spiritual leaders? The Scripture distinguishes those in need of milk and not of meat (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12-14). Strong meat belongs to them that are of full age (Heb. 5:14). Babes are not able to bear meat (1 Cor. 3:2). Guard against thinking everyone you’re preaching to is on your level of spiritual maturity; they’re not! Guard against feeling you have to prove your biblical prowess. If they don’t get what you’ve tried to tell them, what difference does it make how many degrees you have behind your name? Communication is more than what’s being said; it’s what’s being understood.

Properly Exegete the Text

2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The phrase rightly dividing is translated from the Greek word orthotomeo which means, “to cut straight, to cut straight ways.” As a tentmaker, Paul understood the importance of “cutting it straight.” If he didn’t cut it straight, the pieces wouldn’t fit together properly. If we don’t properly exegete the text, it won’t fit with the rest of Scripture. Therefore, we have an obligation to properly exegete the text. In Matthew chapter four, in the temptation of Jesus, the devil said, “It is written,” but he didn’t “cut it straight.” Proper exegesis provides fuel to launch the rocket. We have to keep the main thing the main thing, and the Word is the main thing! We just need to “rightly divide” it. Too many people are preaching the text but missing the point. It’s not our job to cook the meal. We just have to deliver it without messing it up!

Think of a Sermon As a Toolbox

In a great toolbox, there are many tools. A great sermon may have many tools as well: information, explanation, illustration, application, exhortation, argumentation (I use the term loosely), quotation, celebration, etc… A master carpenter needs more tools than a hammer and a nail, and so does a master preacher. Variety keeps it interesting.

Make it Memorable

Catchy sermon titles such as: Nick at Night; And the Mule Went On; Cheated, Mistreated, but not Defeated; etc., creates interest. People will say, “I can’t wait to hear what that’s about.” Also, Rhetorical Ropes, alliterated outlines, are a good tool to use to help the audience remember the message. For example, with Jonah we could use the outline of…The Order, The Objection, The Ordeal. The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter one could be outlined as…The Preview, The Overview, The Review.  An outline from 1 Kings 17 might be…The Dry Brook, The Depleted Barrel, The Dead Boy. This is a great way to help people remember the message. Then one can expound on thoughts and principles within those points by using different tools in the toolbox.

Don’t Get Bogged Down with Too Much Information

I had a guest speaker come to speak who took way too much time with information. By the time he finally got to the point, he had lost them. It’s very important to have good information, but when people’s eyes start glazing over, you may have gone a little too long. When developing points, think of paragraphs. For example, under a point you could have a paragraph of information, a paragraph of application, a paragraph of illustration, then a paragraph of exhortation/celebration. If you think paragraphs, you won’t get bogged down with any one particular area. People want substance, but make sure you don’t bring too much to the table.

Remember…their minds can only grasp what their behinds can endure

I know of a minister who always had good things to say but would just preach way too long. People would dread to hear him speak. But then I started preaching with a stopwatch. I know Paul appeared to be long-winded, but if you’re going to preach forever at least be dynamic. If the horse is dead, DISMOUNT! The Gettysburg address was only 272 words long. Point: It doesn’t have to be eternal to be immortal.

Be a Resource Magnet

Invest in yourself. A leader is a learner, and a leader is a reader. I’m humble enough to know I don’t know it all. I’m a continual student. Your humility is directly proportionate to your teachability. If you’re not teachable, you’re not humble. I have thousands of books in my library and I learn something new every time I pick one up. is a great place to purchase resources for your computer. They have a plethora of Bibles, commentaries, word study resources, bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, sermon notes and outlines, etc. Eat the fish and spit out the bones. Warning: Never allow these tools to replace your own study of Scripture. These are simply helps and tools that you can use along the way. For sermon construction, I recommend the following resources: Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapel and How to Prepare Bible Messages by James Braga. I also love to read biographies of people past and present. We can learn much from other’s successes and failures. Our lives are either wonderful examples or tragic warnings. I’m always looking for little quips and quotes everywhere I go. A good filing system is one of a minister’s best friends!

As one minister said: Think yourself empty, read yourself full, write yourself clear, and pray yourself hot!